His story is right out of Life Magazine. Omar Bradley was born to a poor family in a log cabin in rural Missouri in the year 1893. He worked hard to get a basic education, excelled at sports and was working with the railroad to make enough money to attend the University of Missouri when his Sunday School teacher suggested he apply to West Point. Bradley got an appointment based on outstanding test scores. While at West Point he excelled at extra-curriculars but was an average student, graduating in 1915 just as World War I was breaking out.
Much to his dismay, Bradley never made it to the European theater, doing stateside duty on the West Coast. Yet he began to distinquish himself as a skilled organizer and developed a keen understanding of battlefield tactics. In the decades between the wars he had several posts as a student and instructor at key military colleges which honed this knowledge base and which allowed him to advance in rank as a professional soldier. He came to the notice of George C. Marshall, who would go on to run the military during World War II.
As World War II broke out he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given the responsibilty of ramping up two infantry divisions which would play significant roles in Europe. But as the North African front exposed the ill preparedness of the green American troops, Bradley’s organizational and leadership skills were called upon to reverse losses against the Germans and help prepare for an invasion of Sicily and Italy beyond. During this campaign he served under George Patton.
|Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower |
and George Patton
The Allied breakthrough in Italy created the opportunity to plan a large scale invasion of France and Omar Bradley was called into the center of Operation Overlord – the D Day invasion. In fact much of the eventual plan for the Normandy Invasion was the result of Bradley’s planning and tactical innovation. It fell to Bradley to command the US invasion of Omaha and Utah beaches. On November 6 1944 the Allies launched the D Day invasion and after significant struggle a beachhead on the mainland was secured. It is about this hardfought triumph that Bradley said, “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.”
During the closing years of the war Omar Bradley became indispensable to the Allied command under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Almost alone among the top echelon of generals Bradley seemed impervious to politics and was the only commander able to effectively manage the combustible George Patton. Eventually the entire US force in Europe was placed under his command, meaning he personally oversaw a fighting force of 1.3 millions soldiers. It was his tactical plan in connection with the Soviet advance that ultimately led to the defeat of the German army and the end of the war in Europe.
|Bradley Statue in Moberly, Missouri|
After the war General Marshall personally requested Bradley to oversee the Veteran’s Administration. With the rapid downsizing of the wartime army, the VA was a backwards department unprepared to meet the needs of the fighting men it was created to serve. Within just a couple of years Omar Bradley’s leadership and organizational skills had transformed it into a agency that was a signficant force in allowing the ‘greatest generation’ find its way home from the war.
|Omar Bradley receiving his fifth star |
from President Harry Truman
|Omar Bradley funeral procession to Arlington|
There is a special reason this visit to Arlington National Cemetery where I saw Bradley also makes this Memorial Day blog meaningful. It was one of the last times I had the chance to spend an extended time with my dad. He had taken the train up to Philly so that I could drive with him down to Arlington to attend the memorial service of a cousin, Richard Allen. Vice Admiral Dick Allen had served as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War, had captained the USS America in the Libya bombing raid in 1986 and had been head of the North Atlantic Naval Air Wing at the end of a distinguished naval career. He had fought a heroic battle with cancer and had testified greatly in that battle to his trust in Jesus Christ. Along with my son Grant and my nephew Ben we had the priviledge of attending as family a full honors burial at Arlington, which was very moving.
|Bradley Fighting Vehicle on the move in Iraq|